Sales of new cars and trucks in Northeast Ohio continue to rise from their Great Recession lows.
And analysts are forecasting that national sales will increase in 2013. That bodes well for the greater Akron-area economy with its large number of automobile industry suppliers as well as retail dealerships.
Northeast Ohio sales in 2012 rose nearly 3.2 percent over 2011 to 208,099 vehicles, the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association reported. While up, sales in the region did not do as well as the estimated 9.8 percent increase nationally. Sales in the association’s 21-county area were well up from the 2009 low of 151,798.
December sales in Northeast Ohio fell 6.8 percent to 14,862 from 15,940 a year ago, the Cleveland dealer group reported.
For the year, Ford was the best-selling manufacturer once again in the region, followed by Chevrolet, Honda, Toyota and Kia.
Summit County new vehicle sales in 2012 rose to 21,629, up 2.1 percent from 21,174 in 2011, according to figures from the Akron-based Northeast Ohio Automobile Dealers Association.
In Summit County, the Ford Escape small SUV was the best-selling new vehicle for the second year in a row, with the Hyundai Sonata in second place.
Ford models rounded out the top five in the county, with the Focus small car third, F-150 pickup fourth and mid-size Fusion fifth.
Cracking the top 10 new vehicle sales this year in Summit County was the Chrysler 200, which saw sales increase by nearly 75 percent to 439 from 251 in 2011. The mid-size 200, introduced in 2010 as a 2011 model, is the successor to the Chrysler Sebring. Nationally, Chrysler 200 sales hit 125,476 last year, up 44.2 percent from 87,033 in 2011.
Falling out of the top 10 in Summit County were the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Soul.
The Chrysler 200 is selling well because it has strong safety ratings, gets good gas mileage and people can buy one starting at under $16,000 to $24,000 fully loaded, said Adam Huff, co-owner of the Fred Martin Superstore in Barberton.
In many instances, people looking to buy a used car for $12,000 to $14,000 instead get a new Chrysler 200, Huff said.
“Why not spend another $1,000 and get a new car with a new car warranty?” he asked. Typical buyers tend to be parents ages 25 to 40 looking for a safe vehicle that gets good gas mileage, he said.
“It’s a good product at a great price point,” Huff said.
National overall vehicle sales in 2012 hit 14.4 million, a five-year high and the third straight year of approximate 10 percent annual increases. The National Automobile Dealers Association said it expects new car and light truck sales and leases to rise nearly 7 percent, or by 1 million new vehicles, to 15.4 million this year. Bloomberg News reported the consensus forecast by 18 automobile industry analysts is a sales increase this year to 15.1 million vehicles.
The auto market is healthy, Huff said. What’s helping includes a dropping unemployment rate and the apparent resolution of the federal government budget negotiations that came to be known as the “fiscal cliff,” he said.
“You now have available credit,” meaning more people qualify for loans and leases, he said.
His dealership is putting a stronger emphasis on new vehicle sales while still promoting used vehicles, he said. The Fred Martin dealership just finished adding a storage lot that can hold more than 200 vehicles, he said.
“We’re certainly looking for a good 2013,” Huff said.
Leasing will continue to rebound this year. Manufacturers will not have great lease products on every vehicle but there will be more available than in 2012, he said. Leasing should hold more appeal than taking out a 5- or 6-year car loan, Huff said.
His dealership will be among the many staffing the upcoming Cleveland Auto Show next month at the I-X Center next to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. The show is considered the region’s kickoff for the spring selling season.
The show is a fun event, Huff said.
“That always puts a buzz in the air,” he said. “The cars are the stars.”
The auto show runs from Feb. 23 through March 3.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org